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In fact, Carrey has good reason to be paranoid. His stormy courtship of, ten-month marriage to, and divorce from Dumb & Dumber co-star Lauren Holly was a veritable tabloid-journalist employment program. When the couple honeymooned on a Caribbean island, reporters posing as tourists rented an adjoining bungalow and videotaped Holly as she took an open-air shower. Holly blames Carrey’s disorienting fame and lack of privacy for their breakup.

“Jim is forced into a weird isolation, even if it’s only in his head, with shutting down barriers to people that he may meet,” Holly says. “I don’t know how to explain it, and it all sounds sort of strange. If Jim were to walk into Starbucks and get a coffee, he’d have to have a whole conversation. If he just ordered the coffee -- ‘I want a grande latte’ -- they would interpret that in all sorts of way. And you become very aware of it, very self-conscious.”

Holly and Carrey are currently attempting a reconciliation. Truman Burbank’s forbidden love, the one woman who makes him feel real, is named Lauren Garland. Garland . . . Holly. When I ask Carrey whether this is coincidental, he blushes. “Every once in a while, I stick people’s names in and use -- that are in my life,” he stammers. “When you’re doing a scene, sometimes a real name will elicit something that you can’t get from a fake name.”

Carrey’s attempts to provoke and enjoy feelings not colored by his celebrity are poignant. “The most enjoyable things I’ve ever given to anybody in my life,” he says, “were when I used to go around writing ‘Have a good day’ on $20 bills or $5 bills and leaving them in places that people would find them, on park benches, or where I know there’s a lot of foot traffic. I’d stick it in the sidewalk, then I would go away. I didn’t want to see them find them. That person may be having a crappy day, and they’ll pick it up and go, ‘Oh, that was lucky!’ Put a little weirdness in their day. The key is not watching. Because I know somebody’s going to get a kick out of it. At that moment, money becomes okay. For a second.”

In his 30th year, Truman begins to suspect that all is not right with Seahaven. After a few technological breakdowns, the sham begins to crumble, and Truman has to choose between his Edenic island and the great unknown -- himself. For Carrey, acting a role without the camouflage of wacky hair and spastic gestures was nearly as frightening. “Truman is a lot more naked than most of the things I’ve done,” he says. “When you do a character that’s kind of close to yourself, and you strip away the defense mechanisms and the little tricks, the sleight of hand that makes people just automatically go ohhh-oooooow!, that’s the scary part. Because then you’re giving them a glimpse at yourself. If they reject that, it becomes, ‘We don’t like your essence -- you, at the core, we don’t like.’”

When Carrey finishes posing for the magazine photographer, his P.R. woman rushes up, thrilled, and throws a motherly arm around the star.

“Three hours and not one goofy face!” she says. “I knew you could do it! I’m so proud of you.”

After years of being vilified for churning out puerile junk, Hollywood is eager to be proud of Truman. The industry buzz is that Truman is an important film -- “profound,” in the estimation of producer Brian (The Nutty Professor) Grazer.

“There’s been so much talk out here about the Peter Biskind book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, about the golden age of the seventies directors, when big movies could still be art,” says Variety editor Peter Bart. “The Truman Show is being referred to in that context, as something that could have been made in those days.” There’s also an undercurrent of resentment. “We used to be able to treat Carrey as a dumb-comedy guy,” says one producer. “If this thing is a hit with him as an ‘actor,’ he’ll be impossible to deal with.”

The common marketing wisdom in late-nineties Hollywood is that it’s deadly to sell a movie as artistic or complex. So despite Carrey’s worries, TV ads for The Truman Show string together the upbeat, zany moments. Even Scott Rudin, the iconoclastic New York producer who nurtured The Truman Show from spec script to $60 million feature, emphasizes the plot’s simplicity. “At heart, it is a genre movie -- a prison-break movie,” Rudin says. “One of the reasons I thought Peter Weir would be great for it was, you look at his movies like Witness and The Year of Living Dangerously, and they were, at heart, genre movies, but they were told with such lyricism and style that they didn’t feel like genre movies.” With Truman, Rudin says, “you get the satisfaction of a genre story, but you don’t feel like you’re getting something you’ve already seen.”

Actually, Carrey, Rudin, and Weir have created a work of bold singularity and -- more amazing -- done it for the kind of studio goliath, Paramount, that often produces cautious rehashes. But when it comes to selling Truman, a movie about media manipulation, Weir recognizes the ironies. The film’s release date was originally August 1997; then November; it will finally come out June 5 -- thanks to Titanic and focus groups. “Our audience test results were showing good, but not through the roof,” Weir says. “However, there was one section of the audience where it was through the roof, one statistic. And that was young people between 18 and 25. They just got it -- they’re a group that’s been sold to from their cradle. So that was part of the thinking -- let’s go for the college kids on summer break.”

All of this subtext is interesting. But what’s Jim Carrey really like? “I wouldn’t presume to know,” Weir says.

Well, would you call him a happy person? “No,” Weir says, then mutes his reflexive reaction with a joke. “But I don’t know whether I am. So I could hardly comment on Jim. He’s complex, to be able to do what he does. He’s certainly fulfilled by the work, so I see him, no doubt, at his happiest. He lives in a fishbowl, and has to be careful of concealed cameras. But Jim can hardly complain. I mean, fame is what he wanted, you know? It’s the old fairy tale -- be careful of what you wish for.”

Lately, Carrey has taken up motorcycle riding. “Yeah, I’ve got my helmet on, so no one knows who I am. It’s great,” he says. “I can look right at somebody in a car. I’m just normal. Just another carbon-based life-form that nobody needs anything from.” Suggest the Internet as a place to chat anonymously, and Carrey blanches. “For all I know, Bill Gates has got us all recorded,” he says. “There’s a chip in everybody’s computer that basically tells them everything we’ve done on it, every call you’ve made.”

Carrey thinks again about Truman, and how he has to choose between the safety of his TV-created town and the world outside the dome. “Where would Truman go if he gets out?” Carrey asks. “He’s the most famous person in the world. So he could very well end up going back into the TV show, just to get some peace.”

Then Carrey disappears behind tinted windows, into the inky-dark backseat of a black stretch limousine, alone, for the ride to his house, in Brentwood, a couple of blocks from where Monica grew up and where O.J. used to live. Back to Jim Carrey’s very own 11,000-square-foot bubble.

As the car pulls away, this is what I think: The real Jim Carrey is much like Truman Burbank. And then I think: That’s exactly the spin he wants me to buy.


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